This article can help you to learn how to choose web hosting. I created this online guide after realizing how hard it is to research and find a good web hosting service.
Firstly check the issues we face…
#1: There are a number of hosting services available than you can count.
#2: If you’re new to web hosting, you probably won’t even know what to look for.
#3: Googling “best hosting service” will take you to a whole lot of fake review sites that are just trying to earn a commission, not give you real advice.
It’s no wonder that so many people end up regretting their first choice and switching to another service later (myself included!).
So, this article has a simple purpose to help – end the madness and confusion by providing some helpful guidelines to narrow down your choices and to avoid the pitfalls you might encounter if you don’t quite know what to look for.
Some people visiting this site may just want a quick answer, so this guide also applies these guidelines (to a list of over 200 hosting services) and provides some specific recommendations for Traditional Hosting, Managed WordPress Hosting, and Cloud Hosting at the bottom.
For people (beginners or otherwise) who want to create a WordPress site that runs optimally, but who don’t want to deal with a lot of the technical aspects, and who want good customer support that specializes in WordPress, a fully-managed WordPress plan is a good option to consider. Click here to view our managed WordPress hosting recommendations.
For larger sites, higher traffic sites, or important sites that need to be up as much as possible with a low risk of crashing, cloud hosting is a great option. A cloud server can be just about any size, used for small or large websites, and you can find pricing that’s competitive with traditional shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting. Unless you’re proficient in server administration, it’s recommended you use a managed hosting plan. Click here to view our managed cloud hosting recommendations.
Part I: Required Features
The closer a data center (where the physical servers are located) is to visitors of your site, the faster the site will run. If you are intending your site to reach users in the US and EU, it doesn’t make much sense for the data center to be in Singapore. A company that wants to host your site on a server should tell you where that server will be located.
There are many reasons a hosting service might not tell you where their servers are located – they range from marketing (trying to appeal to less tech-savvy customers by not making their site too technical) to deception (“if we don’t tell our customers where our servers are, they probably won’t think to ask”), to just plain laziness.
You likely will want to find a hosting service with a data center near you, but depending on the intended use of your site (such as reaching customers in another country), you may want the server to be located somewhere else.
The important thing is to know. Web hosting services that don’t disclose the locations of their data centers on their website will be eliminated from the list.
Free SSL Certificates
SSL certificates, and why your website should have them? No matter what content of your site, it should have an SSL certificate to establish secure connections with visitors. Also, the folks at Let’s Encrypt make SSL certificates available to anyone for free.
If you have root access and know a thing or two about computers (such as, what “root access” means 😉 ), then you can add a free certificate yourself. However, root access usually only comes with unmanaged hosting plans (where you are responsible for the setup and maintenance of the server yourself). Most of us are better off with a managed hosting plan, where the server setup and maintenance are handled by the hosting provider. In this case, the best option is to have our hosting provider install an SSL certificate for us.
However, some hosting services refuse to offer free SSL certificates for their customers, and instead only offer to sell them. With so many hosting providers out there, why settle for one that makes you purchase an SSL certificate when there are many others that offer free certificates as a courtesy? Some companies offer “free SSL certificates” for certain “premium” plans, but they aren’t really free, the cost is just built into the price. There’s also a question of values: companies that don’t offer free SSL certificates are saying they care more about profits than security.
Web hosting services that don’t provide free, basic SSL certificates (for all plans) will be eliminated from the list.
Hosting Services to Avoid
Many of the most popular hosting services in the US are actually owned by the same company: Endurance International Group (EIG). EIG doesn’t have the best track record, and it doesn’t take much searching online to find a lot of complaints from users who experienced a noticeable drop in quality after their hosting service was acquired by EIG.
There are numerous articles and websites devoted to warning potential customers about EIG.
Does this mean any hosting service owned by EIG is going to be a bad one? No, it doesn’t. Some people claim to genuinely like their EIG-owned hosting service.
But at the same time, there is a clear history of issues associated with EIG companies, issues that begin after being acquired by EIG. Some claim this is due to a focus on profits rather than customer experience (coincidentally, most EIG hosting services also don’t offer free SSL certificates, so they would be eliminated either way).
This doesn’t mean all of the EIG-owned services are terrible, but it does indicate a risk. With so many other quality hosting options out there, this is a risk that should be avoided.
Part I – Results
Let’s take a look at our list of web hosting services and see how they did with the first three criteria. The first table is for web hosting services that offer some form of managed hosting, which will cover most of the services that were included in the research.
You’ll have to scroll or search to see all the entries. Their services are divided up into three tables here.
Services that only offer Unmanaged Hosting:
Server Locations (or Headquarters location if unknown)
Data Center Locations Listed
France (22 centers around the globe)
Unmanaged cloud hosting:
Server Locations (or Headquarters location if unknown)
Data Center Locations Listed
US, Germany, Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia
Amazon Web Services
US, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, UK, Germany, India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia
US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany, India, Singapore
Google Cloud Platform
US, UK, Belgium, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Australia
US, UK, Netherlands, Singapore
US, UK, Germany, Singapore, Japan
US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany, India, Singapore
US, UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, Japan, Australia
From the above tables, the original list of 202 services is reduced to 102 services. It’s a start… the next step is to look at reviews of these services.
Part II: Reviews
Reading reviews should be a great way to help you select a hosting service, but unfortunately, as mentioned at the beginning, many of the web hosting “review” sites you’ll find online are fake.
Especially, these sites are actually affiliate programs in disguise, and their purpose is to generate as much money from commissions as they can, not to give honest advice.
Moreover, the hosting services that tend to be ranked the highest tend to be the ones that pay the highest commissions (and those services tend to be owned by, surprise, EIG).
Specifically, many of these sites are pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for. If they have nothing but positive things to say about all the services they list, or if they just have a long list of “Best for” categories (“best for blogs”, “best for eCommerce”, etc.) then you are probably looking at a sales-pitch rather than an actual review.
Some hosting services like to boast of their Trustpilot ratings, but even those can’t necessarily be trusted:
So what can you do? Where can you find impartial advice? It isn’t much, but here are a few websites that give you real, honest reviews:
Review Hell – Reviews are based on real customer experience. The four categories considered are speed, reliability, support, and price.
Review Signal – An interesting concept, this site uses an algorithm that scans Twitter conversations and generates ratings based on positive and negative tweets. The algorithm generates an overall score but also has categories for uptime, support, and price.
PC Magazine – These reviews look at many aspects of each service, including the variety of hosting services offered, uptime, features, customer support, and price.
Another good resource for information on hosting services is the “Web Hosting Talk” forums. You can browse conversations and/or post questions to get information.
In addition, one unfortunate thing about the lack of good review sites is that only a fraction of the available hosting services will have real reviews. There could be excellent hosting services out there that are either too small or too new to get reviewed, and they are going to get overlooked.
Another issue with only having three review sites is that you can’t get a consensus if service is only reviewed on one of the sites. To work around this and keep things simple, we’ll only look at hosting services that have reviews on at least two of the three sites, and we’ll average their scores together.
To point out, the advantage of doing this is that it’s ultimately going to leave us with a solid list of choices: well-known, established services that receive consistently high ratings.
This round really narrowed down the list, only seven services remain that met all of the criteria and had at least two reviews. Before computing the final average scores, the scores from each review site were changed to a 10-point scale.
Review Hell Score (out of 5)
Review Signal Score (out of 100)
PC Mag Score (out of 5)
Average Score (out of 10)
1 and 1
Web Hosting Other Factors
Just because a topic falls under the “other factors” section doesn’t mean it isn’t important. In fact, for some people, this section may contain the most important factor for them.
This guide is performing a general search for a “solid all-around web hosting service”, and you may have specific requirements that cause you to weigh your decision differently.
In other words, maybe you have specific technical requirements, such as a certain amount of storage space or bandwidth. Maybe finding a low-cost service is the most important. Maybe it’s the level of technical support or finding a company that takes care of the technical stuff for you.
If there’s a feature that really stands out as something you have to have, you should use that feature to make your shortlist, then go from there.
Web Hosting – Verdict
No single web hosting service will be ideal for everyone, so there are a few recommendations below that, together, will cover most people’s needs.
These recommendations are based on the above criteria as well as some additional research (such as contacting customer support with questions, and in some cases, trying out the services first-hand).
These are all companies that have good ratings and a good set of features at reasonable prices. In addition, most of them have global servers to satisfy the hosting needs of just about anyone.
Traditional Web Hosting Recommendation
Managed WordPress Web Hosting Recommendation
Cloud Hosting Recommendation
Let’s take a look at the cloud systems you can choose from:
Amazon Web Services (Headquarters: US)
Servers in US, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, UK, Germany, India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia
Google Cloud Platform (Headquarters: US)
Servers in US, UK, Belgium, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Australia
DigitalOcean (Headquarters: US)
Servers in US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany, India, Singapore
Vultr (Headquarters: US)
Servers in US, UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Australia
Linode (Headquarters: US)
Servers in US, UK, Germany, Singapore, Japan
Kyup (Headquarters: US and Bulgaria)
Servers in US, UK, Netherlands, Singapore
Web Hosting – Brand Or Reputation
That’s a lot of choices. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty confident in the cloud platforms of the likes of Google and Amazon; they seem to know what they’re doing. Also, the other services are actually quite impressive, they just don’t have the same level of brand recognition.
DigitalOcean is the third-largest hosting provider in the world, behind Amazon and Alibaba.
Vultr has many of the same features as the others on the list, but it also has some of the lowest prices.
Linode does offer its own managed cloud services, but it’s expensive. Using Cloudways is a much more affordable way to get managed services on the Linode network.
Kyup is a spinoff company of SiteGround. All of these cloud companies offer auto-scaling, but Kyup is the only one that allows you to turn it off if you don’t want it.
It is possible to sign up for these services without going through Cloudways if you want an unmanaged cloud server, but the managed services that Cloudways offers is the solution that will work for most people.
Network To Choose
Which of these networks should you choose? It all depends on what you’re looking for:
Amazon, Google: These two offer powerful server plans, storage, and bandwidth. You will be using the same cloud network they use to host their sites, so you know it will be good. You’ll pay for this power and reliability though, as these are also the most expensive plans.
Kyup: Pricing is less than Amazon and Google, but in the same ballpark, and it’s the only service of the six that lets you turn off auto-scaling if you’re concerned about unpredictable billing amounts.
DigitalOcean: A good value price. It has a very large network but costs much less than the other large networks (about half as much as Kyup, and with more allocated bandwidth). If you don’t know which service to pick, Cloudways recommends DigitalOcean.
Linode, Vultr: These are the lowest-cost options, with Vultr plans costing just a little bit less than Linode. Their networks are smaller compared to the other services, but they are still very solid options if you’re looking for a low-cost solution.
Important to realize, Cloudways offers a free trial to anyone who wants to try their service out.
To clarify, as with WP Engine, you can’t register a domain through them. But again, this isn’t a big deal, and it’s often cheaper than going through a hosting service anyway.
Email service isn’t included with their plans either, but they do offer it as an add-on if you want an email account with your domain name.
They offer two options: Rackspace email service for $1/month for each address (this is normally $2/month through Rackspace), or service through Elastic Email with different packages available (such as $0.1 for 1000 emails/month). You can also just find a separate email hosting service.
Bottom Line – Web Hosting
In conclusion, Cloudways is the go-to service for managed cloud hosting. With their ample selection of networks and plans to choose from, they have a solution for just about any hosting need.